The glassy-winged sharpshooter is one of the biggest pests to farmers in the west. It threatens countless vineyards in California and Arizona by infecting plants with Pierce’s disease. Scientists have been doing research on ways to control the pest that have led them to discover how it works with two symbiotic bacteria to create a balanced diet for itself. Understanding how the symbiotic process works could lead them to understand how to control these pests by messing with this relationship. Sharpshooters, like other sap-sucking insects such as aphids and cicadas, transmit the disease by sucking the sap from plants. So, understanding this relationship can provide information into how they transmit these diseases, and how scientists can thwart them.
The sharpshooter relies on the xylem they take from plants’ sap and the bacteria Sulcia mulleri to create their balanced diet. The sharpshooter takes nutrients from the xylem, which it then gives to the bacteria. The bacteria then transforms this into nutrients for the sharpshooter. The insect and the bacteria depend on each other in this three way interaction for each of their nutrition.
Do you think scientists can take this knowledge and turn it into a way to control these pests?